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The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age Hardcover – October 11, 2011

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Hardcover, October 11, 2011
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1 edition (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805091947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805091946
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[A] quietly terrifying book. . . . It’s hard not to feel a bit feverish at times while reading."--The Boston Globe

"One of the world’s foremost virus hunters."--Financial Times

"Wolfe makes a convincing case for the [viral pandemic] threat. . . . Sometimes the scariest thrillers are those that could play out in real life."--Science News

"An excellent piece of scientific gothic, rich in descriptions of the threat we face from emerging viruses and how we might prevent them from becoming pandemic. . . . This enjoyable, well researched and thought-provoking book shows that [Wolfe] has a clear vision of how pandemics occur in human populations."--Nature

"[An] engrossing and fast-paced chronicle of medical exploration and discovery."—Publishers Weekly

"Startling in its revelations of just how vulnerable we are to infectious outbreaks."--Book Page

"Wolfe’s message is both compelling and timely… Wolfe graphically illustrates how viruses can hitchhike their way from benign passenger to poison, from lone gunman to mass murderer. Luckily he and his international microbiologist cohorts are hot onto ways not only to track viral outbreaks and head them off but also convert them into human helpers—vaccines."—Booklist

"Highly recommend for all readers. This important book should be read by anyone wanting to stay informed on how global medical issues affect us all."—Library Journal

"From a well-traveled virologist, an eloquent argument for why we need better ways to predict and thus prevent major disease outbreaks… Wolfe’s wide experience confronting killer diseases in Africa and Asia makes for important, graphic reading and underscores his passion for prevention."—Kirkus Reviews

"By turns terrifying and comforting, The Viral Storm is a clear, riveting account of the threat of undiscovered viruses. They lurk in the blood of primates killed for bush meat, poised to hitchhike on global travelers, reaching major cities and blood supplies before there's even time to name them. Nathan Wolfe is saving the world from near-inevitable pandemic. That he had time to write a kick-ass book on top of all that makes me want to smack him."—Mary Roach, author of Stiff and Packing for Mars

"Nathan Wolfe brilliantly explores the threat of pandemics, how they occur and why we should care. This book offers a warning—but also hope—to us all. The next pandemic is coming. How we deal with it is up to us. This is must reading for anyone who cares about their health, the health of their families and civilization as we know it."—Jeff Skoll, first President of eBay, Founder and Chairman of Participant Media, and Founder and Chairman, Skoll Global Threats Fund"Nathan Wolfe is a charismatic rising star of the medical world."—Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse

"This is an astonishingly lucid book on an important topic. Deeply researched, yet effortlessly recounted, Wolfe's mix of biology, history, medicine, and first-hand experience is potent and irresistible. This is a book that you cannot put down. In the tradition of Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague, Wolfe's work will change the way we imagine and patrol human epidemics."—Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies


About the Author

Nathan Wolfe is the Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Human Biology at Stanford University and Director of Global Viral Forecasting, a pandemic early warning system which monitors the spillover of novel infectious agents from animals into humans. Wolfe has been published in or profiled by Nature, Science, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Economist, Wired, Discover, Scientific American, NPR, Popular Science, Seed, and Forbes. Wolfe was the recipient of a Fulbright fellowship in 1997 and was awarded the National Institutes of Health (NIH) International Research Scientist Development Award in 1999 and the prestigious NIH Director's Pioneer Award in 2005.

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Customer Reviews

That's a bit much for a book of less than 250 pages total.
This scientific information is well laid out in an understandable, well written fashion.
gt surber
That said I found his book very interesting and a great read.
Natalia Murataeva

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Justin on November 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
More of a Nathan Wolfe Autobiography / Primate Evolution book than anything else. Not to say that it isn't interesting in it's own right (and Dr. Wolfe has certainly had an amazing career), but this is far from what I expected based on the summaries. He also seems to focus on other infectious agents as much as viruses and more on how to monitor them than their history or pandemic potential. While reading the first 100 pages or so I was pretty sure I picked up a book about primate behavior instead of viruses. That's a bit much for a book of less than 250 pages total.

I personally didn't find it very engaging but it's not bad book by any means. Just don't be mislead by the title.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Beth E. Williams VINE VOICE on December 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I know enough about my fascination with viruses to know, as a non-scientist, my curiosity about them has more to do with philosophy than medicine but that may well be yet another reason for biologists (for just one group) to be equally ensnared by their subject.

The Virus, for its opportunism in the extreme (parasitical is too meager a description) and because its very nature is controversial (is it Life or isn't it? I agree with his footnote on the bottom of pg.8) can appear to be such a vast topic that no one author can be expected to resolve or ask or even comprehend all the questions. Wolfe, in his first 35 pages, does at least try - and it remains my favorite section of the book - his amazement with these microscopic life(?)forms is so engaging that if you didn't have a respect for them before you will have afterwards. And, if the next 300 or so pages that come after it were just "so-so" for me that is not the fault of Wolfe, he has a wide readership to appeal to and just because I am not particularly interested in bureaucracies, who got what grant to do what and where does not mean that these aren't valid sections for millions of others.

But those first 35 pages, yes, they are heady indeed, Wolfe is delightful in both his recognition of just what makes these viruses so shocking and where we fit in their world (ie."our bodies are their habitats," p.27), and his conclusion in the first chapter, (Viral Planet) says it all: the viral world is the "new world," the last frontier of undiscovered life on our planet."

Perhaps it is the Lewis Thomas phenomena, a flashpoint where scientist and non-scientist can co-exist in a mutual relationship of shared passion, be it horror or admiration, or both?
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Reader on May 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book reads more like the cover letter of an insecure person applying for a job. It seemed like Nathan's primary concern is that you know how elite the institutions are where he has worked, and that he label every single person in his field as his colleague. I've never seen so much name-dropping in a science book. He also glosses over really interesting topics in a single paragraph. There is very little scientific information in this book. Nathan even admits that he's obsessed with how diseases can jump from wild animals to hunters. It's an important topic, but he beats it to death just because it makes for dramatic imagery.

I learned about this book and Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer through Radio Lab. I recommend anything and everything Carl Zimmer has written and to skip The Viral Storm. The tiny amount that you'll learn about viruses in The Viral Storm you'll read about in Parasite Rex but in so much greater detail, plus fascinating stories about many other parasites. I've bought copies of Parasite Rex to give away to people but I wouldn't recommend The Viral Storm to anyone.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By AngusHudson on January 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Look I very much wanted to love this book. For a physician, this area is fascinating and current and Nathan Wolfe interviewed is a wonder to behold for popularizing these fascinating ideas. In print though, he is far too self referential about his admittedly brilliant career. He has certainly had the good fortune to hit upon a topic and approach that will get grant/government/investor money in perpetuity. But after your gold plated academic credentials are made clear on the back page, keep yourself out of it and credit your mentors and collaborators more than yourself. Champion the ideas not yourself. The ideas are compelling, his potential solutions creative but utterly awash in ego. There can be a fine line between cutting edge brilliance and huckster self-promotion and this book sits on that razor's edge. When you pass from scientist to rock star celebrity your credibility can plummet cf Carl Sagan. These are marvelous ideas and research....
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Barbadoes on October 25, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Nathan Wolfe succeeds in explaining and justifying why a combination of circumstances is increasing the likelihood of more regular future pandemics, without necessarily reducing their potential impact. It was great to be provided with a detailed understanding of what viruses are and how they work. The final chapter puts forward some very interesting technological strategies for mitigating the risk and improving preparedness - I wish Nathan and his contempories the best of luck with their future endeavours.

Prior to reading this book (as a keen poker player), I had assumed that there was about a 25/1 chance of there being a pandemic each year - based on events in the last 100 years - perhaps with a 4/1 chance of this being severe. However, after reading this book, I think my odds are somewhat optimistic. I'm not ready to cash in my chips just yet but I'll certainly be spending a bit more time on contingency planning!
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